Thursday, February 22, 2007

Personal Geology 101

In graduate school, in a course called Creative Nonfiction (also called Literary Nonfiction and has since become a very favorite genre of mine), I first learned of John McPhee. What I love about him is how eclectic he is with his subject matter and how fascinating everything becomes through his writing. Although he doesn't insert himself into his narrative as much as more recent writers in this genre (Tony Horwitz, Bill Bryson) his curiosity, interest, and fascination with what he's learning turns any subject into a highly readable, almost novel-like experience. Whatever you're reading suddenly becomes something you've always wanted to know about but just hadn't realized it before. If you're not much into nonfiction, but want to be, he's a good place to start.

So Annals of the Former World is a compilation of five previously published works on geology. They have appeared in book form and in The New Yorker. That's why the book is 660 pages. I'm only on 131. Little Guy's giving up of naptimes has really cut into my reading time.

I can now name all of the time periods in the Paleozoic Era (from oldest to most recent): Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (Mississipian and Pennsylvanian) and Permian. (That was from memory).

The Mesozoic Era is: Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous

I don't know the Cenozoic Era but it starts with the Paleocene and ends with the Holocene which is what we're in now.

Some other interesting bits: the top of Mt. Everest is marine limestone. The Himalayas are still getting taller, as they are still being pushed up by the tectonic plate under India. He's also touched on silver mining, the extensive histories that can be read in roadcuts along America's highways, how plate tectonics gained acceptance a long, long time after its initial proposal, what the terrain of America looked like millions of years ago (for example, the west coast ended at the Utah/Nevada border once and there were tropical jungles in what is now the midwest.) And I had no idea Nevada was so mountainous. I've never been there.


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